This portfolio is a glimpse of New Orleans, five years after Hurricane Katrina broke the ancient levee system and flooded the city to the rooftops. This was my first trip back to NOLA in a decade, after having lived there for six years. It was a strange conundrum – to rediscover my old memories at the same time realizing I was willfully participating in ‘disaster tourism’. Regardless, I wanted to find out how Katrina had changed the city and the people I once knew so well.
Upon first glance, it appears that life is returning to normal, especially if one appreciates NOLA’s spirit of resilience and devotion to the good times. Last year’s Super Bowl victory by the Saints was a tremendous morale booster for the community, underscoring the city’s ultimate path to recovery. But it doesn’t take much surface scratching to reveal the lasting impressions the horror of rising water has etched onto people’s minds. Younger generations especially are struggling to overcome feelings of abandonment. My gracious hostess, a charter school counselor in the 9th Ward, explained to me how many of these kids are emotionally tormented and have turned to violence as a way to express their anger.
I carried myriad impressions back from this brief visit. It felt reassuring to find my old stomping grounds mostly intact. One of my all-time favorite events, “Art for Art’s Sake”, was sprawling in all its glory, from Julia Street in the Warehouse District up Magazine Street to the old Uptown neighborhood. The event and artists were just as over the top and magnificent as I recalled them. At the same time, many of the areas, particularly the Lower 9th Ward and St. Bernard Parish, will sadly remain works in progress for years to come.